Over the last 25 years, The Netherlands and Rwanda have cooperated in different aspects of Justice, among other areas, infrastructure development, institutional reforms in the judiciary, law and order sectors as well as pursuit of genocide suspects.
The two countries this week marked a silver jubilee of cooperation, vowing to strengthen further the ties in the justice sector. The European country has been one of leading donor and partners of Rwanda’s Justice since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Ministry of Justice and the Dutch Embassy in Rwanda said the two countries will continue to work together to improve and strengthen different areas of the sector in the coming years.
On the occasion to mark the milestone, the Dutch envoy to Rwanda, Matthijs Wolters said that Rwanda and the Netherlands will continue to work together particularly in strengthening the capacity of the justice figures, cooperating in law enforcement and technological reforms.
“This is a milestone, which should be celebrated not just because of our past partnership but most importantly how far Rwanda has come in building a Justice system from scratch. Our commitment has been budget support, different projects in different facets of the Rwandan justice sector,” Amb. Wolters said.
Amb. Wolters said the two countries have achieved a lot over the last 25 years of justice cooperation and the reforms have paid off over the years and today Rwanda has overcome most of the challenges that affected the sector.
The Netherlands was instrumental in supporting Gacaca Traditional Courts which tried genocide suspects, as well as reforms in courts and laws, through funding as well as funding for the law-and-order sector.
Wolters said that for more than two decades, Dutch government regularly funded initiatives to improve legal services using technology and similar partnerships will be developed in the coming years, to keep supporting the improvement of the JLOS.
Development cooperation between the two countries started in the 1980s and was dispensed through Dutch organizations such as SNV (the Netherlands Development Organization) and faith-based NGOs but later the countries engaged directly.
Amb. Wolters said The Netherlands wishes to continue contributing towards Rwanda’s efforts to build a strong and efficient justice system which is trusted by the citizens.
After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda had millions of cases to deal with, and it was nearly impossible to have them tried in ordinary courts.
The financing of Gacaca Courts by partners like The Netherlands helped the country to overcome the challenge.
“As many other sectors which were affected by the Genocide, the Justice lost a lot of staff while others directly participated in killings themselves and had to flee or were arrested and convicted over crimes they committed,”
“As a result, the justice sector was really incapacitated. After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, we had to start afresh. If we didn’t have support from development partners like The Netherlands, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Mbonera said.
Among other areas, the Government of Netherlands supported Rwanda in capacity building, justice infrastructure development and other legal reforms that led to the enacting of crucial laws.
“On this occasion of celebrating 25 years of cooperation in justice, we thank the Netherlands for being among the first to support our justice sector to rebuild itself,” Mbonera said.
The two countries agreed to partner to bring genocide fugitives to justice. Netherlands is one of the countries that hosts a big number of Genocide fugitives in Europe but it has also tried to prosecute or extradite.
Two genocide fugitives have so far been extradited from Netherlands and, as the prosecution continues to track down more fugitives in different countries across the world, including the Netherlands, both countries are committed to working together in bringing them account.
“The Netherlands has so far extradited two suspects to Rwanda and they are currently on trial in the country. The Netherlands collaborates with the Rwandan prosecution, and there are ongoing investigations but they take long and have to be meticulously managed as you can understand,” Wolters said
The MINIJUST PS said the two countries will continue to cooperate to ensure that even those who are yet to be brought to book have their day in court, either in the European country or in Rwanda where they committed the crimes.
The Netherlands committed to supporting Rwanda’s justice sector in its efforts to bring justice services closer to the communities and in strengthening the Electronic Case Management System (IECMS), to ensure rapid and efficient justice, among others.
Improving the performance of the system and introducing technology will help the country overcome a huge case backlog which was worsened by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Netherlands has been supporting Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), as well as other members of the Civil Society engaged in the justice sector, such as Legal Aid Forum (LAF), Haguruka, Ajprodho Jijukirwa and others.